4 March 2018 • 6:00am
Illegal raves are on the rise as traditional nightclubs have been forced to close their doors, new figures reveal.
The number of planned unlicensed music events in London recorded by the Metropolitan Police nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph using freedom of information legislation.
The rise has has been linked to the decline of traditional licensed venues, with half of the capital's nightclubs having closed in the past decade, according to City Hall.
The rising cost of drinks in legitimate venues has also been blamed for the return of rave culture.
Plans for 133 illegal raves were identified by the Met in 2017, up from 70 the previous year.
In September the consumer rights group CAMRA, which publishes the Good Pub Guide, said the average price of a pint of beer in the UK had hit a new high and warned that drinking in pubs was becoming an “unaffordable luxury” for many.
Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of the UK Hospitality, a non-government body that represents clubs and restaurants said: “If nightclubs are being forced to close or increase their prices then customers will naturally gravitate towards the alternatives that come in the form of illegal raves.
Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of the Music Venue Trust, a charity that works to prevent the closure of UK music venues, said the high cost of maintaining a license and paying business rates can drive innovative music underground and increasing the allure of unlicensed events.
On top of other challenges for nightclubs, business rates in London have risen by an average of 26 per cent since April 2017, according to research company Nordicity.
Increased security at nightclubs has also been blamed for driving interest in unlicensed events.
Chris Knowles, a former illegal rave organiser and one of the founders of the record label Stay Up Forever, said punters are put off by "humiliating and dehumanising" airport-style security in order to listen to their favourite genre of music.
The Metropolitan Police has changed its tactics on identifying unlicensed music events since 2015, with a new emphasis on the surveillance of individuals suspected of organising illegal raves.
“Using covert tactics, we try and understand who the organiser is and where they live,” said Detective Chief Inspector John Oldham, the Head of Crime at the Met’s Public Order Command. “We’ve woken up to the problem and put out a much higher intelligence requirement to identify these things."
Covert tools used by the Met’s Public Order Command include online surveillance and the use of intelligence collection officers that are sent into venues.
“If you are dealing with something like drug dealing you need to put someone in to buy the drugs or to pretend to be a drug user,” said Oldham.
The new tactics were adopted by the Met after efforts to shut down Scumoween, an illegal rave in Lambeth in 2015, resulted in “pitched battles” between partygoers and police officers. A total of 26 officers and a police dog were hurt in the clashes and 54 people were arrested.
In July 2016, three people, including a police officer, were stabbed in Hyde Park as officers in riot gear attempted to shut down an unlicensed music event. In June last year a similar operation to shut down an unlicensed music event in Stanford Hill led to hundreds of revellers spilling out onto the streets and clashes with police.
Roads were closed while a helicopter, dog units, and riot officers were used to try and subdue the crowd. During the violence car windows were smashed, one person was stabbed, and another was arrested.
Also last year, police shut down an illegal rave in a sewer in Newcastle that was attended by around two hundred people. Attendees had to wade through water to access the party where organisers had set up a sound system and lighting.